NLRB Body Blow: Union’s Lobbying Not Chargeable to Nonmember Employees

Patrick Scully

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) has ruled that unions cannot charge nonmember represented employees for union lobbying expenses.  Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Communication Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988), nonmember represented employees can only be charged “representational fees” in states that permit ‘union security’ (compelled payment of dues as a condition of employment).  In other words, employees who do not wish to join a union can be prevented from becoming so-called ‘free riders’ because the union that represents them can collect fees “necessary to performing the duties of an exclusive representative of the employees in dealing with the employer on labor management issues.” On March 1, 2019, The NLRB concluded that, under the Beck standard, a union representing nurses in Rhode Island and Vermont could not charge nonmember nurses for the union’s lobbying efforts on seven bills.  In short, the Board found that the fact that some of the bills related to employment issues did not demonstrate that the lobbying was necessary for the union to perform its statutory function as the employees’ representative. In a signature dissent low on case law and high on righteous indignation, Member McFerran argued that a union should be able to prove how certain lobbying might be “germane” to collective bargaining. This legal argument was previously considered and rejected by the District of Columbia Circuit Court Appeals, consistent with established Supreme Court precedent.

United Nurses and Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital), 367 NLRB No. 94 (March 1, 2019)